Pochi Chilean Cuisine and Wine Bar

The warmth of Chile: Pochi’s wine-centric approach—along with its flavorful Chilean cuisine—refreshes the downtown Wilmington dining scene.



Pochi Chilean Cuisine and Wine Bar
220 W. Ninth St.  |  Wilmington  |  384-6654  |  pochiwinebar.com
Prices: Appetizers and salads $6-$14; sandwiches $9-$13; entrées $18-$28
Recommended: Camarones al pil pil, Chilean sea bass, Chilean wine flights

Braulio Rojas tells the tale of the legendary Carménère grape, which disappeared from Bordeaux, France, sometime around 1867. After a nasty plague of phylloxera bugs ravaged the Carménère’s roots and leaves, the species—behind one of Bordeaux’s Original Six red wines, noted for its deep red hue and fruity characteristics—was said to be extinct.

Only, it wasn’t. Unbeknown to mostly everyone, Carménère grapes had been thriving in the fertile Central Valley of Chile for generations, hidden in plain sight.

“In the early ’90s someone finally came along and did a DNA test of these grapes and, sure enough, there was the Carménère, growing beside some Merlot grapes,” Rojas says.

The fried avocado salad is made with tomatoes, corn, and arugula and topped with chia seeds and soy sauce. Carménère flourishes inside Pochi Chilean Cuisine in Wilmington—the cozy 40-seater that Rojas opened last fall with his wife, Patricia Millan. Just like the wayward French grape that blossomed in South America, Pochi is an anomaly—a hip, buzzy spot that’s actually drawing weekend crowds to downtown Wilmington.

With craft beers and gastropubs dominating so much of our local dining conversation, Pochi feels like a refreshing change of pace. With a sexy roster of Latin American wines, Pochi reignites the romance and adventure we reserve for a full-figured glass of crushed grapes.

The narrow, 2,653-mile-long Chile is one of the world’s top wine-producing nations, and supports nearly every variety of climate and topography between its massive coastline and proximity to the Andes Mountains. “Wine is popular culture in Chile,” says Rojas, whose native Santiago sits near the heart of Chile’s heralded Central Valley wine-making region. “It’s something that you see everywhere.”

Pochi’s cellar extends an excellent primer to Chilean wines, from the plump and peppery Carménère varietals from vintners Viña Falernia, Ventisquero, and De Martino, to more assertive Cabernet Sauvignon from acclaimed winemaker Montes. Argentinian malbecs, California pinots and Spanish blends round out the list most nights—and almost everything is available by the glass. A scant $15 buys one of four wine flights grouped by characteristics (“funky reds,” “fruity whites,” etc.), and three generous pours of each arrive affixed to ornate wine holsters.

Sipping, swapping, sharing: Beneath Andean alpaca fur tapestries and heirloom copper etchings, wine immersion at Pochi is terrific fun. Precipitous vertical wine racks hang high above the bar against exposed ancient brick, and empty bottles, each containing a single white rose, line the tables. Packed into its comfy little strip of Ninth between and Orange and Tatnall streets, Pochi furnishes downtown Wilmington with something it’s lacked since Julio Lazzarini moved his Orillas Tapas from its chic, original lower Market Street spot. Intimate, warm and romantic, Pochi is bound to become a destination date spot. When the room is booked, which was most nights, Pochi felt hip and exclusive. I witnessed staffers solemnly turn customers away during a packed Saturday service and wondered who else in Wilmington was doing the same.

Owner Braulio Rojas and his wife, executive chef Patricia Millan.  Pochi’s food menu, Rojas says, comprises “the essentials of Chilean cuisine,” and was pared down from handwritten family recipes. Such reliable blueprints, in the hands of executive chef Millan, yielded some exquisite flavors that perked taste buds as much as the wine did. The sautéed shrimp, for instance, of camarones al pil pil skimmed atop an intoxicating liqueur of white wine, garlic, butter and a sneaky thump of spice that enveloped every plump morsel of shrimp (not to mention all the extra crusty bread I requested to sop it with).

Expectations were high for Chilean sea bass, especially at $28 a plate, but Millan didn’t disappoint. Her hulking filet was perfectly cooked—crispy top, with a velvety, juicy interior—with a clever smear of blackberry-wine reduction that isolated and underscored the fish’s sweeter strains.

With Pochi’s more lightly shaded dishes, Millan brandished her finesse and restraint. The gentle snap of lime that enlivened humble cannellini bean salad was tactful; but the precision in her fried avocado salad was masterful. A quick jump in the pan left my hunks of avocado warm and pliable (read: not mushy), and a perfectly creamy foil to fresh-tasting arugula, corn, tomatoes and a crunchy sprinkling of chia seeds. Elsewhere, blue agave nectar was applied to grilled salmon with a surgeon’s touch, never allowing the sweetness to overwhelm.

A few dishes seemed clunky—or at least less-refined, given Pochi’s chic surroundings. A pile of sautéed sweet potatoes slumped cold and bland beside my sea bass, while a plate of flank steak empanadas—despite their tender, flaky crusts—were disappointingly monochromatic, unlike the olive- and raisin-stuffed ground-beef variety Pochi also serves. Lomo a lo pobre, South America’s answer to steak frites, featured tender certified Angus tenderloin with a tasty mélange of fries, frizzled eggs and sautéed onions, but the meat’s critically underseasoned exterior left it tasting flat and bitter.

Traditional tilapia and shrimp ceviche radiated its poppy-lemon marinade, but an endless parade of julienned red onions (and the dutiful but unnecessary palm hearts) forced me to poke around in order to get to the fish.

By dessert, the luscious panqueques con manjar pardoned any and all sins. Rich, drool-inducing dulce de leche oozed like lava from the crispy outer ridges of tender rolled crepes, and drizzled around hand-whipped cream.

It didn’t have the complexity of a Carménère—it didn’t need it. For Rojas and Millan, sharing the flavors of home is a passion. When those flavors arrive by the glass—and by threes—we’re more than happy to oblige. 


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February 2016

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1200 N DuPont Highway
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Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
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1200 N DuPont Highway
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More information

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View map »


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Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
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View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
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View map »


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More information

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Cost: $0-14

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Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


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More information

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Cost: Free

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Cost: Free

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The Station Gallery
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View map »


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Website »

More information

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Delaware Museum of Natural History
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Cost: $13

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Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his golden touch? That is the question to be answered—not with chests full of gold, but with a spectacular array of ancient artifacts,...

Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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Guests can explore three floors of exhibitions in the Visitor Center, stroll along the river through dozens of historic structures from the Industrial Revolution, and explore the gardens and...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
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Penn Museum opens the world premiere exhibition The Golden Age of King Midas—featuring ancient treasures on loan from the Republic of Turkey—with a spectacular daylong public...

Cost: $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
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Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
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For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society and CAMP Rehoboth will co-present "Tab Hunter Confidential" and "Portrait of a Serial Monogamist" as part of its annual Another Take...

Cost: $8

Where:
Metropolitan Community Church
19369 Plantation Rd.
Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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"La Sylphide" shares the beautiful and romantic story of our hero, James—a young Scottish farmer who, on the eve of hid wedding, abandons his betrothed, Effie, after being...

Cost: $25

Where:
Salesanium School
1801 North Broom St.
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Sponsor: Academy of International Ballet
Telephone: 1-866-908-5666
Contact Name: Denis Gronostayskiy
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Venture back with us for an evening where we re-imagine the Victorian Industrial Age as seen through our steam-powered, futuristic goggles.  Our biggest fundraiser of the year and all proceeds...

Cost: $100-$110

Where:
Smyrna Opera House
7 West South Street
Smyrna, DE  19977
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A spoiled orphan girl is sent to live with her uncle on the Yorkshire moors and discovers renewed life, for herself and her sickly cousin, in bringing her dead aunt’s secret garden back to...

Cost: $15–$18

Where:
The Secret Garden
47 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
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Sponsor: The Everett Theatre
Telephone: 302-540-8561
Contact Name: Chris Everett
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Location: St. Mark’s High School, 2501 Pike Creek Road, Wilmington Time: Registration: 11:30 a.m. Race: 12:30 p.m. Fee: $25 (until Thursday, Feb. 11), $35 after and day of event...

Where:
, DE

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Location: Beebe Healthcare’s Medical Center, 424 Savannah Road, Lewes Date: Saturday, Feb. 13 (and the second Saturday of each month) Time: 9 a.m. Fee: Free For more...

Where:
, DE

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Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

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A successful writer of Broadway thrillers is struggling to overcome a dry spell when he receives a script from a student —a potential Broadway hit. Thereafter suspense...

Where:
, DE

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Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

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